Celebrating our past, looking to the future

By Wendy Magas, Outreach Director

NAMI Fox Valley recently marked its 30-year anniversary. A couple months ago, a few of its founders and early supporters got together to talk about NAMI FV’s history. Dr. Tom Tatlock, a retired psychiatrist and longtime NAMI supporter, had the idea of putting together a timeline to chronicle NAMI FV’s past, from its small beginnings to the thriving organization it is today.

As the group began chatting and reminiscing, stories began to emerge. Marilyn Mosher, one of the NAMI FV’s founders, shared the heart-wrenching story of her young son’s devastating mental illness. As a former newspaper reporter, I instinctively began to take notes. In the depths of her anguish and despair, a stranger reached out to her and it changed the course of her life. As we went around the table, the theme continued – stories about families in crisis who found help, hope and support from NAMI.

By the end of the two-hour meeting, I had filled my notebook. Afterwards, NAMI volunteer Paula Verrett and I began collecting more stories from NAMI friends, supporters, volunteers and consumers. We compiled the stories into a display that we shared at April 26 Awards Celebration at the Trout Museum. Here it is in digital form. As we plan and chart NAMI Fox Valley’s future, honoring and remembering our past will help ensure we stay true to our mission: improving the lives of those affected by mental illness.


Children’s Mental Health Matters

Between 14 and 20 percent of children and adolescents experience a mental,  emotional, or behavioral disorder each year; however, less than a third of these youth will receive any treatment. Could your child be in trouble?
Children’s Mental Health Matters, a Maryland Public Education Campaign, offers these questions for parents to consider:

- Is my child’s behavior normal for his or her age?
- Is the behavior severe enough to get in the way of daily activities?
- Does the problem occur frequently?
- Does the behavior last for long periods of time?

You should consult with a health professional if you see these kinds of circumstances with your child:

- Feelings of sadness and hopelessness without good reason, and the feelings don’t go away.
- Extreme fearfulness – unexplained fears or more fears than most children.
- Anger that persists or occurs most of the time; overreactions.
- Anxiety or expression of more or greater worries than most other young people.
- Deterioration of school performance.
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
- Avoidance of friends and families.
- Discussions of suicide.
- Hears voices that cannot be explained.
- Changes in sleeping and eating habits.
- Poor concentration or difficulty sitting still or listening.
- Needs to perform the same routines repeatedly.

For more on their education campaign, and tools and information on children’s mental health, visit their website.

Ending the silence, one family at a time

By Wendy Magas, NAMI Fox Valley Outreach Director

Welcome to NAMI Fox Valley’s new blog. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and today, May 9, is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. We know that 1 in 4 adults will suffer from mental illness in their lifetime.  While half of all mental illness begins by age 14, diagnosis and treatment can take years to arrive at, if at all. Sadly, many children and teens don’t get the care they need during critical years of their development.  Just like with any physical illness, intervening early is important. We know that recovery is possible and treatment, in combination with support, is extremely effective.

Here at NAMI Fox Valley, we are working hard to help raise awareness about mental illness in youth, so families can reach out for help early on, rather than waiting until they find themselves in crisis. We recently launched a new education program called Ending the Silence, which is designed for high school students and provides information on the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses and reduces stigma through personal stories. The program was created and developed by NAMI DuPage County, Illinois.

So far, our Ending the Silence team has put on nearly a dozen presentations at area schools. The response from students has been overwhelmingly positive. In addition to educating them about mental illness, we are also here to support them. NAMI Fox Valley is proud of its Teen Support Group, which was recently honored with the Fox Cities Youth Alliance Service Award.

For parents and educators, we offer SPARK (Supporting Parents as Advocates and Resources for Kids), which not only educates them about mental illness, but offers information on the various school and community mental health resources.

While there are many barriers that prevent families from reaching out for help, slowly but surely we are making progress.